Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues











Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues










Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues











Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues




"History is just people doing things"


                 ISSN 1087-2302   Online Edition Number 327......March 2023

Published since 1985 for clients and contacts of 
ABQ Communications Corporation, the fuzzy focus

of The ABQ Correspondent is "the impact of new 
technology on society." If you'd like to receive email 
notification when each monthly issue is posted, please 
let us know.   correspo at swcp dot com


This issue marks the start of the 38th year since the Correspo was first published. Woof!



We had reason recently to look at the website of the seed-producing company Pioneer Hi-bred, founded in the 1920s by Henry A. Wallace. He was a Vice-President under FDR and later ran for President himself. (In retrospect, if he’d been elected, he would probably have appointed as U.S. Secretary of State an advisor who later turned out to be a spy for the USSR…not that Wallace was a flaming leftist; he was a naďve botanist in the company of politicians.)

As Secretary of Agriculture he visited the Pueblos here in the Southwest, where my friend and sometime employer Dr. Sophie Aberle was supervising all the pueblos for the BIA, he explained to the Zunis how they should really be growing corn, which they had been doing for some thousands of years, not fully appreciating the idea that the approach to agriculture is necessarily different here in the high desert from what it is in central Iowa. She also had to arrange for him to have an overnight room on the East side of the Acoma mesa, so that the sun could flood magnificently into his window in the morning. The folks at Acoma didn’t have any rooms like that.  For religious reasons, I think, they didn’t want the morning sun to get them. It was a major project to satisfy Mr. Wallace, but they managed.

In later times I knew a CHAP who’d been in business with Wallace during the ’60s, selling shiploads of grain here and there around the world. When it turned out that their secretary had industriously been embezzling from the company and she vigorously threatened them out on being discovered, botanist Jerry Twomey, went out of his way to be as cooperative as possible with every interested government agency from the local cops to the Secret Service. “That was a former U.S. Vice-President she was threatening,” he said. “The government takes a real interest in such matters.” As a Canadian citizen, he was extra sensitive to their concerns.

Jerry also commented that the Russians were extremely hard negotiators when buying U.S. wheat, then testing shipments carefully to be sure that its protein content was not below what had been agreed upon.  We weren’t much concerned with that, because most of our population gets its protein from meat…but the Russ didn’t have much meat and it really mattered to them. After the terms were settled, he said, a deal was a deal and they lived up to agreements faithfully.

Gosh, I hadn’t thought about all this for 25 years or so.



Early in February of 2023, Americans were surprised, and many were indignant, to see a very large Chinese balloon carrying instruments in a frame described as being “as long as three buses.” It was in the stratosphere well above commercial air traffic, no one suggested that it carried weapons, and it was plainly visible from the ground. China explained it as a commercial device that happened to get away from its owners, and apologized mildly. There was much asking “why haven’t we shot this down yet?” but those with the ability to do the shooting explained that there was some hazard in causing a thing three buses long to fall several miles to inhabited ground, so they waited until it was over the Atlantic just off the coast of South Carolina “within the 12-mile limit” as they carefully put it. At this writing, there are no detailed reports of what was aboard…and probably won’t least not true reports.

In the couple of weeks following, the U.S. also shot down…and reportedly lost...three more biggish balloons that were probably weather observers that drifted off or experimental, even amateur balloons that got away from their makers.

The whole incident was surreal…especially the surprisingly casual acceptance by the U.S. Government and the expectedly cranky, but not-much-ruffled comments of China. One apparent side effect was the delay of a scheduled visit by the U.S. Secretary of State to China. There are diplomatic wheels within wheels, of course, and for all we know this could have been agreed-upon by the U.S. and China as a plausible excuse to put off that meeting for other important reasons. (Not suggesting that’s the case, just speculating on the improbable…note that there’s a rumor rampant in UFO circles that there will be announcements made in April 2023 of contact with extraterrestrials. That worldwide phenomenon might cause rearrangement of schedules while various governments try to figure out what to do.) Mind you, I dunno anything, not an insider, just a bemused spectator.)

Then again, I do recall some things from longer ago than most people do. Sending balloons to carry weapons great distances to more-or-less random locations is not new. During WWII Japan launched a lot of balloons carrying bombs into the jet stream that would carry them to the United States., but the program was not very effective, killing a few picnickers with no strategic effect. In the 1950s and 1960s, just before the era of satellite reconnaissance, the U.S. had a fairly successful program of using balloons for spying on Russia (presumably Russia was doing the same thing to spy on us.) I knew a couple of guys involved in that.

Reportedly, a balloon could make as many as many as seven trips around the world, carried  by the circumpolar vortex, recording pictures on film at appropriate times. That was before the marvels of semiconductors, integrated circuits, and all that, so they couldn’t transmit hi-res images to the people eagerly awaiting them. Those folks had to get their hands on the film. They did it by dropping packets from the balloons for retrieval.

When we lived in Mountain View CA in the early ‘60s, we occasionally saw interesting things in the sky from our back yard. I clearly recall seeing the separation of second-stages from rockets launched from Vanderberg about 250 miles to the south. The vehicles themselves weren’t visible, but the firing rockets made a splashy show. What we also couldn’t see…because the action was out over the Pacific, miles away...were military planes skillfully grabbing parachutes and their payloads dropped from the balloons. My not-entirely-firm impression is that this activity lasted into the later era with payloads retrieved from satellites.

A sidelight on the big balloon business: rather surprisingly, the organizations with the necessary expertise were the big milling companies centered in Minneapolis. A friend who worked in the program for General Mills (I think) commented that if he’d been seen lunching with a known Russian spy, he’d just have been warned away from such company, but if he’d been seen with somebody from Pillsbury, he’d have been in serious trouble.

In any case, we’re in sort of an awkward position to complain about other people’s balloons.




A company called Hermeus Aircraft is seriously planning to create a 20-passenger airliner that operates at five times the speed of sound…enabling travel between New York and Paris in 90 minutes (one could almost commute daily). A major feature of their work is that it uses existing technology instead of calling for new developments. Their vehicles (a couple of unmanned craft will be flying before the airliner) switch from familiar turbojet propulsion that can move planes to as fast as Mach 3 to ramjet propulsion when the adequate speed is obtained, using a hybrid engine. They’re planning to provide hypersonic passenger service as soon As 2029. Their website is interesting.

…and if, like me, you’re a bit fuzzy on the differences among turbojets, ramjets and scramjets, this very clear explanation will be helpful.



The Correspo commented recently on a 3D printer that uses ultrasound to form objects inside a container of gelatinous material. The object formed can then be removed from the gelatin and used. Ultrasound is now forming 3D objects in another way; a “sonic hologram” is used to push selected cells together gently in new configurations, creating different biological structures.  Baffling, but intriguing.



People are modifying all sorts of materials in surprising ways, perhaps even usefully. One team has found a fairly simple way to make wood harder. So what? Well, they have demonstrated their ability to make sharp knives and sturdy nails that don’t rust out of the treated material. See here.





This item from 1996 is recalled by the mention of

Dr. Aberle in another story in this issue.

Hundreds of years ago, people pecked interesting symbols into the jumbled rocks in a volcanic escarpment near Albuquerque, and one area, with a high density of these doodles, became a protected state park a few years ago. Nels Winkless commented to Dr. Sophie Aberle, dis­tin­guished former member of the National Science Board who lives nearby, that there seemed to be more petroglyphs in the area after it became a park than before. "That must be Roscoe's work," she said. "He loves to make those things, but of course he doesn't understand them, and they have no meaning." Roscoe Pacquin was a Zuni Indian, roughly ninety at the time, who had been part of Dr. Aberle's household since about 1940, with lots of free time. "We agreed," says Nels, "that the things are legitimate Old Indian Petroglyphs, not because they were done a long time ago, but because Roscoe was an old Indian." History is full of comedy.

That escarpment has since become the Petroglyph

National Monument and her home and grounds have

become its Visitor Center.

When I knew Dr. Aberle in those pre-internet days,

I had only a vague sense of what her credentials were

and what she had done. She was something else again.

Once, in an argument with a cacique during a meeting

in a kiva, she snatched the Lincoln Cane from him,

and shook it at him while making a point. She realized

while she was shaking it that it was unwise for her to

do that as a lone woman among the dignitaries of that

pueblo, so she made her point, handed the cane back

to him, and climbed the ladder out of the place without

further incident. She figured everybody was too

stunned to act, and she’d been lucky.

Knowing that she had long been married to a guy named

Bill Brophy, I once asked her why she used the name

Aberle. “My middle name is Bledsoe” she said, “and if

you think I want to be known as Sophie B. Brophy,

think again.”

Roscoe lived in a small apartment building on the

edge of her property, carefully keeping his windows

covered, so that he couldn’t easily be witched

by malevolent forces that had something against him.

A little drive served that building and somebody else’s

home back against the escarpment. As as the years

passed, that drive became a formal street named in

Roscoe’s honor. It seems to be gone now, consumed by

the parking area for the center. Too bad.

A Pacquin (or “pekwin”) is the “sun priest” in Zuni.

Roscoe’s father, whose photograph appears in a 1903

Smithsonian Special Report on the Southwest, was a

pacquin for the pueblo, and Roscoe would have taken

up the post himself, had his dad not passed away when

Roscoe was still too young to learn the trade.

He did take the name.

At the Tsabatseye/Mahooty wedding at Zuni some

years since, we met Roscoe’s nephew, who considered

Dr. Aberle an even odder character than Roscoe...and

he was a character and a half. In his late eighties, for

example, he took up a sideline of selling wigs, which

he’d demonstrate by wearing them, trading off

different styles in the course of a day.

Because I was writing things for Dr. Aberle, he always

called me The Story Man. I was flattered.

Gad, this recalls still more.

Another time, perhaps.

Oh…just one thing. A fairly convincing argument

has been made that somebody well before Roscoe

chipped Chinese characters into one of the stones in

that escarpment (which I can see from our living-

room window). The ideograms appear to be a

very early form…suggesting that they were placed

there a couple of thousand years BC. This stirs some

entertaining controversy and speculation. The exact

location of the petroglyph has not been revealed, so

I can’t go and stare at it ignorantly. Aw.


Everybody is a Somebody


Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceWell, the link to LuLu, which was printing and shipping the book, has stopped working after some months  of listing it on Amazon at an insane $37, rather limiting sales..

I’ll figure out a practical alternative one of these times, and post the information when I have it.

Meanwhile, the picture of the cover makes a sort of graphically useful anchor at the bottom of this page, so it will stay while I fumble.








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